While I can't speak to the federal level, as I have not had the privilege of practicing there yet, generally a "superseding indictment" is an indictment that takes the place of, takes precedence over, or replaces a previously obtained indictment. The prosecuting attorney may seek a superseding indictment for a variety of reasons, but generally, if it appears that the new indictment contradicts what the previous one charged, the later in time one is likely going to be the one governing the case. However, it is also possible to have multiple indictments against the same individual for the same general set of facts. I strongly suggest that you (or whoever you are asking for) speak with a federal practice criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Good luck.
The indictment is the formal charge. It is brought by the grand jury but is actually drafted by the prosecutor. In federal court it can sometimes be quite lengthy and specific. A federal investigation does not end when an indictment is handed down, and the Government continues to look for additional information. When enough information has been found to justify additional charges, the United States Attorney will return to the grand jury to present the new evidence. The result will be a new indictment under the original case number, which replaces the original indictment. This is called a superceding indictment. Typically it will add additional defendants or additional counts against the original defendants. Less often, certain counts or defendants may be be dropped for various reasons. There is no limit on how often the Government can seek a superceding indictment. My most recent federal case went to trial on the fifth superceding indictment.
Federal criminal court is a tough and complicated world. Even more than in state court (which is tough and complicated enough) you should not try to navigate this world without an attorney who knows it.
I agree with my colleagues. As a former federal prosecutor for over 20 years, it has been my experience that AUSAs will sometimes return to the federal grand jury to obtain a new Superseding indictment, with new charges or accusations, whenever new evidence becomes available. We recommend that you retain a criminal lawyer with federal court experience. Good luck.
A superseding indictment is an indictment that has added charges and/or defendants to an earlier indictment. There are many reasons why a superseding indictment (or multiple superseding indictments) may be returned, including the Government's discovering new information as it continues to investigate the case.
Joshua Sabert Lowther, Esq.
NATIONAL FEDERAL DEFENSE GROUP